Shenzhen leads the way for China in the Child Friendly Cities Initiative
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On the 31st of May, 2016, the day before International Children's Day, China's southeastern city of Shenzhen launched China's first Child Friendly City Initiative (CFCI) at an event. This was not only a momentous day for the CFCI in China, but also for the global Initiative as a whole.
By 2030, over 250 million more Chinese citizens are expected to be living in cities.Shenzhen, a Chinese megacity, is home to one of the largest populations of migrants in China.
Already, with one-fourth of the world's 100 largest cities now in China and the Government of China's National New-type Urbanization Plan aiming to continue the urbanization trend, how to ensure access and improve the quality of services to children will be ever more critical.
The Child Friendly Cities Initiative celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2016. Formally launched by UNICEF and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme back in 1996, the initiative aims to make cities livable places for all and in particular to make cities fit for children.
A ‘child friendly city' is defined as any local system of governance, urban or rural, large or small, committed to fulfilling children's rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A child-friendly city aims to guarantee children's rights to essential services, such as health, education, shelter, safe water and decent sanitation, and protection from violence, abuse and exploitation.
Along with carrying forward the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child Friendly Cities initiative also sits within Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals, that being to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Shenzhen's path to becoming a Child Friendly City was firmly cemented through the successful inclusion of the Child Friendly City Initiative in the new Shenzhen 13th Five Year Plan on Social and Economic Development. This key inclusion was achieved through the crucial commitment and advocacy by the Shenzhen Working Committee on Children and Women.
“The millions of urban and migrant children are among the most disadvantaged in China, deprived of the essential services that can mean the difference between opportunity and despair,” said Antoine Deliege, Child Protection Officer at UNICEF China, who spoke at the event. “Promoting Child friendly cities can be one of the effective approaches to advocate for improving urban governance and equity, and budgeting for children, and to put children, especially vulnerable children, at the centre of the urban agenda.”
In his speech addressing the event, Shenzhen city Mayor Xu Qin stated that as the future of China, children should be provided with greater resources to ensure their welfare.
Attending the event held at the Shenzhen Library were a diverse group, including: children, government officials, urban planners, architects and community service workers. This diversity exemplifies the fact that meeting the challenges of urbanization can only be achieved if we all work together – at every level of government, from local to national, across sectors, and with parents and young people side by side. The event activated a communicative platform through dialogue and exchange on the Child Friendly City Initiative and how it can be promoted in Shenzhen, and China as a whole.
It also involved various activities with children, with the Mayor of Shenzhen, Xu Qin, gifting the children special robots that could teach. Children also shared their own points of view about their lives in cities and how they wish for their voices to be heard more. According to them, Shenzhen needs to be less polluted, to have more recreational areas (parks, sport facilities, children museum and cultural centres) and to be more adapted for vulnerable children including children with disabilities.
This is reflected by UNICEF's call to put the most vulnerable children at the centre of local planning, which lies at the heart of the Child Friendly City Initiative. To bring it all together, Mayor Xu Qin, along with other Government officials and Antoine Deliege, from UNICEF China, all left their handprints on a wall, to further mark the joint commitments to beginning down the important road in making Shenzhen a place fit for children, a Child Friendly City.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
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